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Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Travel | 3 comments

Smart Money and the Super Bowl (Don’t be impressed by lots of 000’s)

 

 

I don’t give a damn who the millionaire bet on.  What I want to know is — what bets did my friend with the $9 knapsack make?

 

A few years ago, a highly-respected sports-gambler and associate of mine (who shall remain nameless unless he wishes to identify himself) used to fly into Las Vegas for just one reason — to bet on the Super Bowl game.  He’d show up at the Westgate Sportsbook on the big night when all the Super Bowl props were first released.

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in Blog, Essays, General Poker | 5 comments

10 Ways to Tell a Sports Handicapping Service is Dishonest

 

 

When you see ads featuring douchebags driving fancy cars fanning wads of cash surrounded by sexy girls — run in the opposite direction.  They’re all crooks.  Every one of them.  Here’s the truth:  Real sports handicappers don’t call attention to themselves.  Real sports handicappers don’t toss around $100 bills like confetti.  Real sports handicappers don’t hang out in Las Vegas nightclubs.  Real sports handicappers work their asses off — because that’s what it takes to win.

 

It’s that time of year again.

The start of football season means two things.  First, sports gambling ramps up big-time.  Second, an infestation of predators will be hunting for fresh prey.  These predators are known as “sports handicapping services.”

Fortunately for us, dishonest sports handicapping services are easy to spot.  In fact, they make it way too easy.

Here’s some advice that’s never once failed me in my 20-plus years on the sports gambling scene and more than a decade living here in Las Vegas.  That advice is as follows:  When somebody looks and acts like a scumbag, he’s usually a scumbag.

Want to know more of the warning signs?  Okay, let’s do this.  I’ve compiled a list of things to watch out for.  Here are 10 ways to tell a sports handicapping service (also known as “touts” or “sports advisors”) is probably dishonest:

 

[1] When the Handicapper(s) uses a Pseudonym

Any successful sports handicapper should be willing to use his real name in all of his business dealings.  This is especially true when your hard-earned money is involved.  Sure, some handicappers may employ a catchy nickname for marketing purposes, and that’s okay.  But each of us has a legal first and last name.  Anyone who’s honest about what they do for a living should be willing to be known publically.  I’ve discussed this sticky point with some full-time touts who insist they use pseudonyms for legal reasons and/or to maintain privacy.  I call bullshit.  If you can’t take pride in what you do for a living, or you’re uncomfortable with your customers knowing your identity, then you shouldn’t be in the business.  Here’s a question:  Would you take financial advice from someone who doesn’t use his (or her) real identity and instead relies on a fake name?  Of course not.  This should also apply to anyone you trust to provide sports picks.

 

[2] Handicappers Using Phoney Academic Credentials

Over the years I’ve noticed many scumbag handicappers use “Doctor” or “Professor” in their titles.  This would be perfectly fine if they actually had academic credentials — particularly in fields such as statistics, psychology, or some other discipline related to sports gambling.  Fact is, these “doctors” and “professors” are frauds.  They’re liars.  Years ago, a scam-capper who went by the name “Dr.” Ed Horowitz was exposed as a cocaine addict and was found to be a convicted felon.  More recently, “Dr. Bob,” a college dropout who lit up the sports betting scene about a decade ago when he went on a (perhaps random) hot streak which caught the attention of mainstream media, has no doctorate in anything.  He’s still around.  Be careful about who you trust.  Academic titles shouldn’t be slung around loosely with the intent to establish a false credibility so as to fool people.  Academic credentials should be rightfully earned.  No sports advisory service to my knowledge has any doctors of professors working as full-time handicappers.  Perhaps they do exist and if so, they could post a copy of the doctorate at the website.

 

[3] Living a High-Roller Lifestyle

There are legitimate handicappers and honest sports services making a living researching games and then giving out the plays, and perhaps even betting on those picks themselves.  Every single one of them puts in massive numbers of hours.  This is especially true for bona fide sports services that really do care about their clients, which are few and far between.  If you see advertisements (or worse, “reality television” shows or videos) with douchebags posing with fancy cars surrounded by pretty girls, or fanning huge wads of cash — run in the opposite direction.  They’re all crooks.  Shit stains.  Scum.  Every one of them.  Here’s the truth:  Real sports handicappers don’t call attention to themselves.  Real sports handicappers don’t toss around $100 bills like confetti, nor hang out in Las Vegas nightclubs.  Real sports handicappers work their asses off because that’s what it takes to win in this business.

 

[4] Touting Only Recent Win-Loss Results

This is a red flag that screams — scam!  We see this frequently, especially on print ads and all over social media, including Twitter and Facebook.  “We went 8-2 our last 10 plays!  Sign up now!”  So, the service claims that they went 8-2.  So what?  I can flip a coin and it might come up 8 heads and 2 tails (there’s a 3 percent chance of this happening if you flip a coin ten times right now).  But why is the service bragging about only the last ten picks?  What happened the previous 20 picks?  Or previous 50 picks?  You can be absolutely certain — if the service had enjoyed a longer winning streak, they’d be bragging about it.  Fact is, the service might have gone 2-8 the prior week and ended up with a 10-10 overall record.  Minus the usual 10 percent vig plus the service’s subscription fee, congratulations — you’re well on your way to going broke.  All that matters in sports handicapping in the long term.  One day, one week, or even one month is almost meaningless.  Unless a service can provide a legitimate W-L record over a lengthy period (at least a year, and preferably several years), they should be avoided no matter what claims they make.  [One more thought:  A trustworthy service shouldn’t have to constantly brag about themselves — winners become self-evident]

 

[5] Failure to Post Comprehensive Win-Loss Record

This is closely related to the previous red flag.  All handicappers should publically post their comprehensive W-L results.  This is easy for a website to do.  All plays should be archived so that customers and potential new clients can see for themselves how the handicapper has performed.  That said, be careful because many sports services have been caught “scrubbing” their dirty records.   These unscrupulous services appear to maintain an updated listing of all recommended wagers, but they go back later — a few weeks or months afterward — when no one remembers the losing picks.  Then, they scrub away the losses.  Removing ten losses from 100 picks can make a 50-50 coin-flipping handicapper look like a genius since the falsified record would be hitting 56 percent winners.  One very strong indicator to know if a sports service is honest or not is to look carefully for losing streaks and losing seasons.  Oddly enough, this is a somewhat reliable indicator of integrity.  If a sports service has a few losing seasons, but also more winning seasons on their record, that might be worth consideration (provided they don’t have other red flags).  In short, be more inclined to trust a handicapper and/or sports service that admits to bad streaks and losing seasons.

 

[6] Different Levels of Service or Clubs — Based on Price

This is a dirty trick used by most dishonest sports services.  They offer different levels of service for their clients based on the price.  Often, you see “VIP” clubs and other elite offers which presumably provide a higher level of service (which implies better sports picks — but is junk just like the rest of their stuff ).  If I’m relying on someone else’s judgment, I want his best stuff at all times.  This would especially be true if I’m paying for information.  While the time period of a subscription is indeed a legitimate way to categorize clients (giving discounts to those who purchase a full season, rather than one month, for instance), no sports gambler should ever be receiving second-rate plays.  Any service with segregated membership clubs is a scam.  Without exception.  Here’s the reason — it’s playing the odds.  The more clubs a service offers, the better chance one of those clubs will get hot and produce a winning record.  That way, the service can market its best-performing club to future suckers (and ignore the inevitable losing records).

 

[7] Beware of Hype

Here in Las Vegas, several daily and weekly radio shows feature sports handicappers as regular guests.  These “experts” break down games and provide their picks.  While many are worthless so far as value, just about all of them do provide accurate information.  Most public handicappers who appear in major media work very hard to provide analysis, injury updates, and other data which can help the listener to make a solid pick.  Even those who don’t win in the long run can provide valuable insight on a game we may not know otherwise.  Hence, I do respect these handicappers who are willing to share their opinions.  That said, gamblers should avoid the braggarts and screamers.  Beware of so-called “experts” who spend lots of time touring their records and marketing next week’s picks.  YouTube.com is filled with these videos of self-promoting scammers who spend most of the program telling the world how great they are.  Stay away from them, unless you’re looking for a laugh.  Note:  One example of an excellent resource for gamblers is the daily video analysis released by Teddy Sevransky and Pauly Howard HERE.

 

[8] Any Sports Service Promoting a “Game of the …..” is a Fraud

No sporting event is so lopsided that it merits being promoted as a “Game of the Year.”  Yet, we see this garbage advertised all the time.  This is marketing targeted directly at saps and suckers.  Gambling is a long-term endeavor.  Gambling is about percentages.  No game is a lock.  Ever.  The most egregious violation of this “Game of the….(whatever)” is often witnessed early in the football season.  Dishonest sports handicapping services advertise their “Game of the Year,” sometimes even in early September!  How does a service know there won’t be a superior wagering opportunity later in the season, in October, November, or December?  There’s a reason for this and it’s a sure sign of dishonesty:  Scammers know most gamblers still have money early in the football season that will inevitably be lost from week-to-week.  So, they hype early season games to try and take advantage ignorance and desperation.  You will also see the hucksters promote multiple “Games of the Year.”  If you see anything like “Game of the Century” advertised (yes, this is quite common), that service is a scam 100 percent of the time.  These aren’t reliable handicappers.  They are clowns.

 

[9]  Touting Parlays

Parlays are bottom-of-the-barrel traps for chumps and suckers who lose consistently and are desperate to crawl out of the financial hole.  Some sports handicapping services are so vile, they prey on these most vulnerable who believe in the fairy tale of parlays — gamblers who hopelessly need a longshot winner to get back to even.  Hey — it’s tough enough to pick more winners than losers over the long run, let alone make two or more picks on a single betting ticket.  Yet, we often see “side and total” parlays advertised for the biggest games, especially the golden goose of fleecing for the sports handicapping industry, which is Monday Night Football.  Some services even promote 3- and 4-team parlays.  This is insane.  It should be a crime.  I’ve made perhaps 100,000 sports wagers in my life, and I can count on one hand the total number of parlays I’ve bet (they were all weather correlated — like when a hurricane slammed into Florida a few years ago and I bet several games in the region to go under due to rain and high winds).  Parlays are for losers.

 

[10] Beware of Concentration on Sides / Beware of Concentration on High-Profile Games like Monday Night Football

Betting sides (and nothing else) is at best a break-even proposition for 95 percent of all gamblers.  The lines for NFL and most college football games are rock solid.  Oddsmakers don’t make mistakes (or, if they happen — they’re very rare).  Value comes when we have reliable information that’s not widely known nor factored into the line (yet), which is far more common on propositions — such as the number of yards rushing a running back will gain.  There’s also still some value in second-half (halftime) wagering.  In short, the more exotic the wager (betting obscure players, quarters, etc.) the better the chances the number might be off since it’s impossible to calibrate every proposition of every game with complete accuracy.  Incredibly, very few sports handicapping services give out propositions, quarters, first-halves, and so forth.  They focus on numbers that are virtually unbeatable — sides and totals.  There’s a reason for this:  Most sports bettors want to bet on something they understand and can easily follow.  Very few gamblers take the time to consider a rash of cluster injuries along a team’s offensive line which might lead to allowing more sacks.  In such situations, betting OVER the sack total would be a far wiser wager than betting the side.  Again, very few services concentrate on these opportunities.  Similarly, sports services that always give out picks on the most popular games aren’t doing their customers any favors.  Betting values are much more likely to be found on an Arkansas State-Louisiana Lafayette game that almost no one cares about instead of the New England-Green Bay game.  Seriously — do you think a handicapping service knows anything special about a game likely to be watched by 50 million viewers?

 

My conclusions are as follows:  Avoid sports handicapping services.  You can probably pick just as many winners (and losers) as the typical “professional.”  Moreover, if you add in the cost of the service — which can be hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars — making a steady profit is even less likely.

A final word:  I have many friends in the sports handicapping business.  I know many of the biggest names known to most serious sports gamblers.  Some of them are honest.  Many are hard-working.  Most have experienced temporary flashes of profitability which launched their careers as public handicappers and provided some measure of client confidence.  But remember — all glory is fleeting.  Caveat emptor.

 

Disclaimer:  I have publically posted my football picks for more than 20 years.  I have posted more winning seasons than losing seasons.  Over the past five NFL seasons, my pre-game recommendations have been posted on this website.  In more than 1,000 plays, I have a produced a very small profit — but a profit nonetheless.  I have never once sold my picks, nor recommended any sports handicapping service.

 

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Sports Betting | 3 comments

Are You Ready for Some Footb….err, uhh — CTE?

 

 

Football has been part of my DNA ever since I lost $1 betting on the Dallas Cowboys against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V, way back in 1970.  I’ve been chasing that elusive buck ever since.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize what a disproportionate amount of time is wasted analyzing pre-game matchups, arguing about players and coaches, and watching college kids and grown ups tear ligaments and break bones to move an oval-shaped ball made presumably of the skin of a pig across a designated white line in order to achieve the ultimate obelisk of the game — which is scoring 6 points.  Whippee.

Of course, I’m more guilty than most, not only in sheltering the fever bug of sports fanaticism, but also promoting the duplicity through my writings, videos, and the inevitable rants after a particularly brutal weekend.  I fully recognize — and am even bothered to some degree — by the hypocrisy of this lifelong obsession with sports gambling while at the same time so often belittling the distractions of these mindless diversions within our culture.

I’m disgusted with the game, but alas I still love it so.  College football — the corrupt NCAA, the phony colleges which exploit so-called “student-athletes” while paying coaches and executives millions, and the grotesquely imbalanced ranking and bowl systems.  Pro football — billionaire owners playing pauper to gauge taxpayers for one-sided stadium deals, greedy players holding out and breaking contracts, $30 for game day parking, and way too many television commercials.  And shit referees.

Like all football fans, I bitch and moan incessantly about it all, but then I’m right there every Sunday morning and Monday night, like an addicted junkie doddering towards a needle for another fix.  Nolan Dalla — guilty as charged.

Still, I wonder about the future of football, especially in light of today’s bombshell announcement about the long-term effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  The short version of the latest most comprehensive study ever on the subject is as follows — CTE is real.  Evidence — Out of 111 brains of deceased NFL players that were studied, 110 were found to have some form of CTE.  110 out of 111.  Ka-boom.  That means playing football over a period of time causes serious brain injury.  End of discussion.

Think about that for a moment.

Would you play pro football if given the chance?  I think most of us would say yes.  The money is just too good.  The excitement of putting on an NFL uniform would be way too cool a proposition to pass up.  Well, maybe not playing for the Rams.  But anyone else.

That said, most of us would likely take a long hard look at what we’re doing to our bodies and brains once the inevitable injuries began taking their toll.  Look at it this way:  How much is walking normally worth to you?  How much money would you need to make to sacrifice your mental faculties in the final few years of your life?  These are legitimate questions that every athlete and every parent and every wife, mother, son, and daughter should be asking of those who strap on a helmet and take the field.  The evidence is clear.

It’s one thing for a professional athlete who’s earning millions of dollars to carefully assess the serious risks of playing football.  Indeed, one can justify playing in the NFL at least a few seasons perhaps in order to live the good life and support one’s family.  That’s a risk many are willing to take and a price they are willing to pay later down the road.  But what about high school kids, college players, and those who will never earn a dollar from playing football?  Is it really worth it to endure the whiplash of getting tossed around the turf like a ragdoll playing football for Purdue?  At what point do parents and students say — stop!  it just isn’t worth it.

I suspect this study [READ MORE HERE] and the fallout of more research to come will not be good for football’s long term prospects.  Some parents already don’t want their kids playing football because, they say, it’s too risky.  As evidence mounts, recruiters must worry and now be willing to face what could become a legitimate objection to playing football, in favor of safer sports like basketball or baseball.

Will football be dead in 20 years?

It’s hard to imagine a downfall given all the money, the fame, the billion-dollar stadiums, the entertainment spectacle, and the cultural infatuation with it all.  The National Football League is the American pastime.  That’s because a fan in Macon, Georgia is every bit as interested in watching a game that takes place in Arizona or Missouri or Wisconsin as his team, the Atlanta Falcons.  This is the genius of pro football — making it into a national game.  No other sport casts such a spell over the mass populace.

The counterargument to football’s decline (for medical reasons) is the recognition that violence sells.  A few decades ago, a sport like the MMA/UFC would have been unthinkable.  Women fighting in cages would have a cultural taboo.  Now, it’s on ESPN primetime.  America loves violence.  America is obsessed with violence.  So perhaps, even the risk of ending up like a vegetable attached to a feeding tube will simply be looked at as one of the hazards of the game.  Perhaps it’s an acceptable risk.

But hey, 110 out of 111 brains — all bludgeoned with CTE?

You tell me.  What the risk?  Hell, it seems more like a certainty.

In 1975, a movie came out starring James Caan and John Houseman.  The movie didn’t do particularly well at the box office and has mostly been forgotten since, but it still left an indelible impression on those who saw it.  “Rollerball” told the story of a corporate-controlled future world where the violence of sport turns star athletes into cultural icons.  That fictionalized vision from nearly five decades appears to have become real.  So, perhaps our hunger of violence and obsession with money is so insatiable that games of violence, including football, will forever be with us.  [SEE FOOTNOTE]

So, which way will we go on pro football and CTE?  Is this really the beginning of the end for football?  Or, have we reached the inescapable dystopia reality that violence and entertainment are intertwined?

__________

FOOTNOTE:  From the IMDB page on “Rollerball” (1975) — The game sequences were filmed in the Olympic Basketball Arena in Munich.  Munich citizens were invited to the filming to serve as spectators to the games.  Director Norman Jewison intended the movie to be anti-violence, but audiences so loved the action of the game that there was actually talk about forming rollerball leagues in the wake of the film which horrified him.

 

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